Trouble in Texas
The Texas House has passed an infamous piece of legislation known as SB4. SB 4 is sometimes known as the “anti-sanctuary” bill; it basically requires local police to assume the role of enforcer for I.C.E. and punishes cities who refuse to cooperate. Texas police chiefs are opposed to the bill - they want to be free to decide how to allocate police resources, and they are alarmed at the drop in crime reporting in the Latino community due to fear of I.C.E. There was a huge protest in Austin on Memorial Day.
Texas State Rep. Rinaldi called I.C.E. officials on protesters who were present in the State Capitol. He said they were carrying signs proclaiming that they were illegal and here to stay. Heck, I have a t-shirt that says that. And even if they were illegal - NOT the time to call ICE!!! And THEN Rinaldi threatened to shoot another state representative who was complaining about his treatment of the protestors.
1. Write a postcard to Rinaldi, saying that his behavior is unAmerican and contrary to our deeply cherished belief in the right to free speech.
Rep. Matt Rinaldi, Room E2.508, P.O. Box 2910, Austin, TX 78768
2. Write to the Governor of Texas saying that SB 4 would turn Texas into a police state, and we don’t want this virus to spread to the rest of the union.
Gov. Greg Abbott, Office of the Governor, P.O. Box 12428, Austin, TX 78711
BUT - some good news from Texas: lawmakers recently rejected a slate of dangerous gun bills, including one that would have allowed hidden, loaded guns in public without a license to carry and another that would have allowed guns at school-sponsored activities. (Yes, they were really considering it.)
Medical Marijuana for Veterans
Currently, VA doctors are not allowed to advise on or provide referrals for medical marijuana, forcing veterans to seek private, out-of-network care if they need to access medical cannabis. Last year, both houses voted to include language lifting the ban in an appropriations bill, but it was removed by Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee. Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-3) has introduced H.R. 1820, the Veterans Equal Access Act, which would authorize VA health care providers to: (1) provide veterans with recommendations and opinions regarding participation in their state's marijuana programs, and (2) complete forms reflecting such recommendations and opinions. This bill has been co-sponsored by ten Democrats and two Republicans.
Veterans are increasingly turning to medical cannabis as an effective, safer, and non-addictive alternative to opioids and other conventional medications. They should be allowed equal access to all available effective treatments.
1. If your Member of Congress is already one of the co-sponsors of H.R. 1820, please contact them to thank
them for supporting this legislation.
2. If your Member of Congress is not already one of the co-sponsors of H.R. 1820, please contact them and
ask them to become a co-sponsor.
3. If your Member of Congress is a member of the House subcommittee on health (the committee to which
the bill has been referred), ask them to vote the bill forward for a vote in the full house.
House contact info: www.house.gov
Today’s a holiday, so just a quick one. Lack of affordable health care is one of the biggest threats to the welfare of U.S. citizens today. FAX your Senators to say that the U.S.A. spends more per capita on health care but has lower life expectancy than other first-world nations. The only sensible solution to escalating costs and lack of access to health care is a SINGLE PAYER SYSTEM such as one finds elsewhere in the developed world.
Free faxes may be sent at: www.faxzero.com
Maybe it’s because he has new friends (Putin? The Saudis?). Who knows? But Mr. Trump has declined to affirm Article 5 of the NATO charter. In other words, he refuses to commit to standing behind the NATO principle that an attack upon one is an attack upon all. Article 5 has been in place since 1949; it has never been questioned, although the only time it has been invoked is when the rest of the NATO nations stood behind the USA after the 9/11 attacks. Trump’s faithlessness may be due to stupidity and ignorance or to a sinister self-serving agenda, or both. But his failure to affirm Article 5 is dangerous and destabilizing for the world.
Write a postcard (or several!) to the White House demanding that Trump publicly state his commitment to upholding Article 5 of the NATO charter.
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
If you want, you can email as well:
Health Care as Infrastructure
This is how we have to hit health care. Certain Republican factions are never going to agree that health care is a human right. They are ideologically rigid and doctrinaire and would rather watch their grandmother die of rabies than admit that she has a right to care. And there are those less extreme who are nonetheless queasy about anything remoting smacking of socialism. This is why infrastructure is the way to frame the issue. Nobody says that providing electrical service or telephone lines or paved roads to remote and unprofitable consumers is socialism. Our society recognizes that the greater good of our country - not only the humanitarian good, but also its economic vitality and domestic security - relies on a populace that is civilized, educated, and which participates equally and freely in the commonweal.
“Since the Federal Power Act of 1935, the FPC and now FERC has been charged with ensuring that wholesale power sales and transmission service be offered at rates that are ‘just and reasonable, and nondiscriminatory.’” (UT Austin Energy Institute, The History and Evolution of the U.S. Electricity Industry.) This is the approach we should adopt with health care.
Email or write (postcards) to your senators asking them to recognize that due to its immense complexity and cost, and because of its importance to the functioning of the nation, health care should be considered an infrastructure issue - an issue too important to be left to the mercy of profiteering and cost-cutting. Sick people, addicted people, medical bankruptcies, lost work days, orphaned children, chronically under-producing citizens - all of these problems arise when health care is not universal, and all detract from the health, strength, and virtue of our republic.
Senate contact info: www.senate.gov
C.B.O. Report on AHCA
Surprise, surprise - the Congressional Budget Office reports that the AHCA will result in 23 million Americans losing their health care. The healthiest among us will see our premiums drop a little, but at what cost? Those with pre-existing conditions and pre-Medicare older citizen will see their insurance costs rise exponentially. Many basic services will not be covered. The Senate are now working on their own bill, which will generate its own CBO report.
1. Mitch McConnell heads up the Senate working group on health care. Call his office - (202) 224-2541 - and say that you will not be satisfied with any legislation which the CBO says will cause anyone to lose insurance.
2. His working group consists only of male senators. When called the other day, a McConnell staffer said that there were now women Senators who are full members of the group - this is likely misinformation. If you get a live person at McConnell’s office, ask them the names of the women who have joined the group.
3. Other members of the working group are John Cornyn, Orrin Hatch, Lamar Alexander, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Rob Portman, and Cory Gardner. If any of these are yours, give them a call.
Senate contact info: www.senate.gov
This. Will. Not. Stand.
“The Trump administration, in a significant escalation of its clash with the government’s top ethics watchdog, has moved to block an effort to disclose the names of former lobbyists who have been granted waivers to work in the White House or federal agencies.” (New York Times, May 22, 2017.)
Walter M. Schaub, Jr., head of the Office of Government Ethics, has asked for these names. Granting waivers to former lobbyists (who would normally not be allowed to work in the administration) is a normal, if infrequent, practice, and disclosing the identity of these individuals on request is also standard practice. However, the White House has challenged Mr. Schaub’s legal authority and demanded that he withdraw his request. Mr. Schaub is standing firm.
This disgraceful attempt on the part of the Trump administration to bypass ethical standards surely signals that they have something to hide.
White House contact info: write or call
online comment form
House contact info: www.house.gov
Back to Health Care
Indivisible lists the ten worst things about Trumpcare. Take a look: https://www.indivisibleguide.com/resource/10-worst-things-trumpcare/ .
Now that the house has passed the bill, we need to turn our attention to the Senate, which will be debating and voting on some version of the AHCA.
Call your Senators and go through the “10 Worst” list, point by point in your own words. If you get a staffer, stop after each point to hear their response. If you get a voice mailbox, go through each point, and if you run out of time, call back and go through the rest of the points in your next voice message. Leave your name and phone number and ask for someone to call you back.
If your Senator is a Democrat, call anyway - pick one point on the “10 Worst” list and in your own words describe how you think it will affect you, and ask your Senator how he/she plans to fight against the legislation.
Senate Contact Info: www.Senate.gov.
DOJ Attempts to Interfere
with Immigration Rights Lawyers
Sessions and the Department of Justice are using a legal technicality to try to prevent lawyers from offering pro bono services to immigrants. The DoJ sent a cease and desist letter to the Northwest Immigration Rights Project, telling them to close down their asylum advisory services. The DoJ is a using a rule that was intended to protect immigrants from unscrupulous lawyers taking a retainer and then dropping the case; they’re attempting to extend this rule to lawyers offering free services - a scenario the rule was never intended to address. It’s clear that the DoJ does not like the opposition it is facing from the good guys. Thankfully, Judge Richard A. Jones (a Bush appointee), a District Judge in the Western District of Washington, has at least temporarily put a stop to the DoJ’s dark deeds. But they won’t give up and go away so easily.
Write and/or call and/or email the Attorney General to complain about the DoJ’s persecution of lawyers who are attempting to provide free legal advice to immigrants, especially the Northwest Immigration Rights Project lawyers.
Jeff Sessions, Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
DoJ Comment Line: 202-353-1555
Comment Form: https://www.justice.gov/doj/webform/your-message-department-justice